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".St SIX rfiL Mm vj '3 MS TH'J LAST VOYAGE OF THE DONNA ISABEL BY RANDALL PARRISH Author of "Bob Hampton of Placer" etc. Illustrated Uy Dearborn Moivill Copyright A C. AluCIurtf & Co ,.nio." ly against a bulkhead, while Do Nova, bare-headed, his little black mustache clearly outlined against the olive of his cheek, occupied the stool between them. The Kanaka firemen were out of sight, but the red-faced engineer was on his knees tinkering over a refractory bolt with a monkey-wrench. "Everything working all right, Mr. De Nova?" I questioned, quietly. The eyes of the. four men instantly turned toward me, the engineer straightening up, monkey-wrench in hand. "No troubles here, monsieur," and the mate rose to his foet, his white teeth showing. "Were are we now?" "Just oft the point, with the light house dropping astern, and the swell of the ocean under our forefoot. I am going to call in the boats. Have you plenty of coal?" "Bunkers all full, monsieur." "How Is your steam?" He stepped over to the gauge, peer ing at it across the burly shoulder of the engineer, who still stood staring at me. "Pretty near up to ze danger mark, monsieur." "Then stand by for signals." The engineer came to life as though treated to an electric shock, his fist, still grasping the monkey-wrench, suddenly extended, his red face pur pling with passion. "You damned, bloody pirate!" h« yelled, glaring at me savegly. "It's "You Damned Bloody Pirate!" He Yelled, Glaring at Me Savagely. hung the whole lot of you will be for 1 this bloody night's work. No, I won't keep still, you moon-faced mulatto. I'm a free-born Briton, an* I'll smash In the heads of some of you yet, an' I'll live to se« the rest hung In chains for the bloody pirates you are. Just wait till you're caught, an' then you won't he grlnnln' that way at an honest man. Oh, you'll git It all right, my fine lads. There'll be hell to pay for this Job, let me tell you! It's on nothln' you'll be dancln' then, you murderin' spawn o' hell!" De Nova pressed the barrel of a re volver Into the man's neck, with a stern threat and an unpleasant gleam ing of white teeth. The sailors re mained leaning on their guns, grinning as if in enjoyment of the play. "Never min' w'at he say, sir," and the mate glanced up toward me, as if in apology. 'He bust out zat way ever* fly*' minutes since we be down here. We have club him, two, t'ree time, but he stick here just ze same, an' run ee engine. Qui, oul, it just «e way wlz ze bull-headed Engllsher." '1 .see," I acknowledged, drawing ^baclr, "only watch that he doesn't kink (he machinery." I was not in, the least surprised at •^discovering one of his nationality in recharge of the vessel's engine room, i^nor was I sorry. Hoi would feel little Wml Interest In the affair, after he mice clearly comprehended the situa tion. while a native Chilean might be Impelled by a spirit of patriotism to s«ause as serious trouble. Englishmen Were my Wequently met with in for jjeign engine rooms this fellow had l-probably been picked "op because' of pwtter qualifications than any hattve (.applicant: or,' indeed he might have: member of the original crew of yacht before it was disposed of f'lL-r"1 *0Ternment. tVould have a t- WW*SiWtth .him laterj,} meanwhile ha certainly in good hands and I enough else to .attend to. Th«h came in hand over hano^ coUeddripp&igonthefor* *0® #8088$! «Mr«»d fafasoutthe tpf, tumbled silently over 'tri^vthe: ^antaie IngntahlngTutUe's U^|*l»listat'shufr ""'Iiimrtw11'iiin mm mini ii ii in tinguisning tne raint responsive tinkle of the bell far beneath. Like a hound suddenly released for tho chase, the steamer sprang forward Into the fog Early dawn reached us in sodden gray, the sun a shapeless blob of dull red, with no vestige of its golden light forcing passage through those dense clouds of misty vapor closing us In as between curtained walls. The swell of the sea was not heavy, but the pervading glooin gave to the sur rounding water a peculiarly sullen ap pearance, through which we tore, reck less of accidont, at full speed. A new hand was at the wheel, Johnson hav ing gone below an hour since, but I still clung to the bridge, my eyes heavy from peering forth Into the fog bank, my clothing sodden with the constant drip. Only a few of the men were visible, three or tour grouped about the cap stan on the forecastle head, and as many more gathered along the lee side of the charthouse. Evidently reg ular watches were already chosen, and a portion of the crew had been turned in for their trick below. Tattle him self, clad in wet, glistening oil-skins 1 and looking gaunt and cadaverous, his chin-beard forking straight out over the high collar, was standing aft, be side the fellow who still kept guard over the companion. I moved across to the. starboard end of the bridge, and, when he glanced around, made signal tor htm to join me. "Not very much chance of any one overhauling us in this fog, Mr. Tuttle," I said, pleasantly. "It would be like hunting a needle in a haystack." 'Tis as the Lord wills," he re turned, rather sourly. "Man proposes, but God disposes. The sun will lift that whole outfit in another hour. How far do you figure we're off shore?" "Figure it for yourself. We're doing aii of 1G knots, and have been for four hours at that speed. With an other to be added, even our smoke ought to be below the horizon. We've given them the slip all right, and from now on It's merely a question of steaming to keep ahead. I don't re call anything in the Chilean navy that can overhaul us. What discoveries have you made below?" He turned his crafty, glitering eyes toward me, twisting the lump of tobac co under his tongue. In some way, be neath the revealing daylight, I became even more distrustful of the man, more conscious of his hypocrisy. "Not a great deal," his mouth at tempting a grin "except that we've got the crew caged. Everybody was ashore but the harbor watch." "fThen you found the forecastle em^ty?" "Nothln' there but dunnage and bilge water regular sea-parlor, sir." "And no officer on board?" I asked, scarcely believing it possible. "None, barring the engineer, so far as I know. The cabin was locked up "by your orders, so I let that alone." "And that, then, Is all you have dis covered, Is It, Mr. Tuttle?" He shifted his long logs, but made no effort to turn and face me. "Well, I guess that's about the whole of It," he answered, slowly, as though deliberating over the choice of words. "Only I'm a bit puzzled about some things what don't look just right. We started out, as I understand it, to run off with a Chilean warship named the Esmeralda, a schooner rigged steam yacht. That was the con tract, wasn't it, sir?" I nodded, gravely, wondering what the man could possibly be driving at "That was my understanding," hla nasal tone becoming more pronounced and disagreeable. "And somehow what we've got here looks just a bit odd. This here is a schooner-rigged steam-yacht all right, an' I guess the tonnage isn't very far out of the Es meralda class, but we haven't found a blame Chilean on board—two Swedes, a Dutchman, two Kanakas, an' a bloomin' English engineer." "Well, what of that?" I broke In impatiently. "You know as well as I do that the entire Chilean navy Is filled with foreisrnprs "Sure," he coincided, with a swift, questioning glance toward me ''that's all true enough, sir, but I never saw a whole crew of those beggars an' no Chilean bossin' 'em. But then that's only a part of it. Every one of them small boats down there, a®' the life preservers hangin' in front of the cabin, have got the name Sea Queen painted on them. Dam' if It ain't, here, too, on this tarpaulin." I bent over the rail looking down at the lettering he pointed out, yet with no feeling of .uneasiness. "Beyond doubt, that was the yacht's name before the Chilean government purchased her and renamed her Es meralda for their service. She was .bought from English parties, I've heard. Probably the new owners have found no opportunity to repaint the name." Tuttle drew forth a red bandanna and blew his nose, his voice more sul lenly insolent as he resumed Bpeech. ..."Cllad ye take it so cool, an' maybe *er right. However, it looks dam' odd to me." I glanced aside at the wheelman ap prehensively. The fellow was gazing straight ahead of him into the rapidly thinning fog. It was the manner of the mate more than his words that im pressed me. "toe here, Mr. Tuttle," and I dropped my hand rather heavily on Us sleeve, "kindly explain exaotly what you are driving at Do you in tend to insinuate that we have made a mistake in the dark. and run oil I?® I the, *«»g wwelT Why, man, that Is impossible. We aire sailors, not landlubbers. Both of us have had chance* to see the Bsaeralds. attS vou 'a fV cerraimy Knew wi yesterday." 1 wreaths and buried her sharp nose in the sea. CHAPTER VII. In Which I Suspect Evil. wmmfi "Well, when I come to think It over, I don't feel quite so everlasting ly sure about that. The mind o' man Is mighty deceitful," he admitted, slowly. "You see, I never saw her I any closer than maybe a mile, an' even then she was half hid behind oUi er shippin'. Of course I took notice of her outline an' rig, but I didn't pay much attention to details. To-night we was all of us excited, an' colors don't show up much in the dark! Now, her funnel is painted red, an' unless' I'm a liar the Esmeralda's was black with a valler stripe round the top. Toa see, Mr. Stephens, we kept in pretty close under cover all yesterday, an' maybe they hauled the Esmeralda up to the government docks, and run an other boat into her anchorage." I laughed aloud, not in the least lm pressed with his argument. "A very likely story that there were two vessels in that harbor so near alike as to deceive all of us." He remained stubbornly silent, evi dently uuconvinced, plucking at his chin-beard. "There is a certain way of settling the matter," I went on, decisively, "that is, by an examination of the pa pers In the cabin. Take charge of the bridge, and I'll run down and clear up this affair beyond any further contro versy. We may even have one of the ship's officers stowed away there, sleeping oft his late celebration. If there is, he's due for a rude awaken ing. Keep the yacht's head as she is, and I'll be back directly." I was aware that he watched me closely as I descended the steps, but felt little Interest In such surveillance. That we could have been guilty of so serious an error as he suggested was beyond possibility. Nevertheless the mere suspicion was irritating, leaving me filled with a vague unrest. It was quite true that I might have been de ceived. I realized that, because I had enjoyed no opportunity to observe the Esmeralda in daylight, and ne occasion to study her lines with care at any time. To me she had appeared merely as an extremely graceful vessel, in teresting to the eye of a seaman. But Tuttle and his crew must have known the truth. If we were, Indeed, on board the wrong vessel, it was from no innocent mistake of the darkness, but rather the result of deliberate plan, the full purpose of which was beyond my comprehension. I swore savagely under my breath, even as I laughed sarcastically at the vague sus picion, aroused largely, as I well realized, by my increasing dislike of the ex-whaleman. The wrong ship? Why, the very conception of such an accident was grotesque, ridiculous, be yond belief! It was the hallucination of a fool. One of the men assisted me to unbar the slide across the compan ionway, and, bidding him stand by ready for a hail, I started below, my fingers on the brass rail, my feet firm en the rubber-lined stairs. These led into as handsome a sea parlor as ever I remember gazing upon. Everything was effective and In elaborate taste, evidencing an ex penditure that made me stare about in amazement. So deeply did it impress me that I remained there grasping the the rail, gazing about in surprise, hesi tating to press my investigations fur ther. Yet this feeling was but mo mentJu'y, the'vSry 'desertioa and si lence quickly convincing me that the cabin contained no occupants. The movement of the vessel, the trampling of men on the deck, and the ceaseless noise of the screw were more notice able here than forward, and no sea man, however overloaded with liquor he might have been the night before, could have slept undisturbed through the hubbub and changes of the past few hours. Inspired to activity by this knowl edge, and eager to settle the identity of our prize, I began closer examina tion of that Impressive interior, al though not entirely relieved from the spell of its royal magnificence. Six doors, three upon each side, opened oft from the main cabin. The full length mirrors occupied the spaces be tween, and the doors themselves were marvels of decoration and carving. Another, beneath the stairs, led di rectly Into the steward's pantry, and revealed, besides, a passageway lead ing forward, probably to the lazarette amidships. The others, as I tried their brass knobs, exhibited merely com fortable staterooms, fitted up for offi cers' use three contained two bunks each, the others only one. Four of the beds had been carefully made, but the remainder were in disorder, as though quite lately occupied. Everything im pressed me as unusually clean and neat, evincing strict discipline. The only desk I noticed was a roll-top, af fair, securely locked, and with no lit ter of papers lying anywhere about This, I figured, was probably the berth of the first officer the captain's room would naturally be the one farthest astern. The upright piano, with the high backed cushioned chairs surrounding It, blocked my view aft, but on round ing these I observed a closed door, which apparently led Into a room extending the entire width of the cabin. Never suspecting that it might be occupied, I grasped the brass knob, and stepped within. Instantly I came to a full stop, dazed by astonishment, my teeth clenched in Quick effort at self-control. The entire scene burst In upon my consciousness with that first surprised survey—the draped portholes opening out upon the gray fog-bank, the brass bed screwed to the deck, the chairs upholstered in green pluBh, the polished table with a vaae of flowers topping It, the glisten ihg front of a book-case In the corner, the tiger rug Into which my feet sank. All these things I perceived, scarcely realxing that II did so, for myone trueimpresslott concentrated' itself noon the llvlnc occunanta. I- Mjf ABERDEEN DEMOCRAT, FRIDAY, APRIL 9, 1909 mere were ivro present. a cresting tx-ici toward ntfc, fronting a mirror, yet with eyes fastened upon an open book lying in her lap, sat a woman. The lowered head yielded me only an indistinct out line of her features, yet the full throat and rounded cheek gave pledge of both youth and beauty. Standing al most directly behind her chair, with short, curly locks, crowncd by a smart white cap, her hands busied amid her mistresses' tresses, was a maid, petite, roguish, fluttering about like a hum- 1 ming bird. The latter saw me at once, pausing in her work with eyes wide open in surprise, but the preoccupied mistress did not even glance up. She must have heard the sound of the door, however, for she spoke care lessly: "1 thought you were never coming. 1 What caused you to sail so suddenly?" These unexpected words, uttered so naturally, served partially to arouse me from the dull torpor of surprise. I clenched my hands, wondering if I was really awake, and stared back Into the frightened eyes of the maid, who appeared equally incapable of articula tion. Suddenly she found voice. "It Is not ze one, madame," she cried, shrinking back. "N'on, non It Is un liomme etranger." "What Is that you say, Celeste?" and the other arose swiftly to her feet, the open book dropping to the floor as she turned to face me. In stantly I recognized her, in spite of the long hair trailing unconfined far below her waist—recognized her with a sudden leap upward of my heart into my thoat. There was no semblance of fear, only undisguised amazement, in the dark gray eyes that mot mine. "What—what Is the meaning of this strange intrusion? Are you a member of the crew?" Instantly my cap came off, the thought occurring to* me of what a rough figure I must be making in my soaked jacket, with the glistening peak of my cap shadowing my face. "No, madame and I bowed before her "I am not one of your crew. My —my entrance here was entirely a mistake." She leaned forward, one white hand grasping the back of her chair, the ex pression in her eyes changing as she read my face, perplexity merging into faint recollection. "I—I do quite co"ipr_u nd," he confessed at iast, changing her speech to a slightly broken Spanish. "You —you are Senor Estevan?" CHAPTER VIII. In Which I Begin Discovery. Stunned by this abrupt disclosure of the extremely dangerous predica ment we were in, I found no immedi ate voice for reply, merely standing there as if petrified, staring at them both, cap In hand, grasping the edge of tho door. Their faces swam before me in the gray light streaming through the stern ports the maid al ready attempting a smile, as though her fears had subsided, the mistress viewing me in wondering perplexity. She It was who first succeeded In breaking the embarrassing silence. "But, senor, what does this all mean? Why are you here on board the yacht?" With strong effort at control I broueht my senses to ee then. desDerate ly fronting thesis agreeable situation, feeling myself scarcely less a victim than she. If all that I now dimly sus pected proved true, about us both were being drawn the cords of treachery. "I cannot explain, madame," I be gan lamely enough. "At least not until I comprehend the situation bet ter myself than I do now. It is all dark. I have reason to believe a most serious mistake has been made—one It will be very difficult to rectify. Per haps I could see more clearly If you would consent to answer a few ques tion. May I ask them of you?" She bent her head slightly, still gazing directly at, me with widely open eyes in which I read Increasing be wilderment. I believe she thought me a crazed man, whom she must con tinue to humor. "What vessel is this?" "The steam yacht Sea Queen Liv erpool, owned by Lord Darlington," she announced, soberly, her face and lips white. "How came you anchored oft the government docks?" "By special permission of the presl dente. We were towed Into that berth early last evening, after the Esmer alda had been hauled up against the quay to ship armament and stores." I drew a deep breath, clenching and unclenching my hands. "Could you tell me if it was known to others that you contemplated anchoring there?" She hesitated, her lips slightly apart, one hand pressed against her tem ple. "It is most important that I learn the exact truth," I urged, earnestly. "I ask from no idle curiosity." "I am not generally consulted in such matters, senor," she admitted,' "but I believe we had been waiting several days for the opportunity to take that position. This Is as I have been told." She seemed to be awaiting my ex planation, striving to be courteous, yet with her impatience slightly evidenced by the continual tapping of her foot on the rug. But I wa» not yet through with my questioning. "Were no ofllcers left on board last nightt" Her gray eyes widened. "Certainly yes the first officer and the engineer were in charge when I re tired. The others, with the majority of the crew, had gone ashore at sun down to enjoy the fun- But why do you ask, senor? Are these not on board nowt" "I regret being compelled to answer no. Only the engineer, three of tie Tartar Walsh, and some Kanaka fit* men nave been xouna. have discov ered no trace of the first officer." "Then—then he must have rowed ashore with two of the men!" she ex claimed. "How chanced you to be left here alone?" She hesitated, her hands clasped on the chairback, her bosom rising and falling tremulously. Yet finally she forced her lips to reply, as though thus seeking the quickest way of clarifying the situation. "We were all Invited to the palace of the presidente, to listen to the speeches and view the fireworks. Lord Darlington was greatly Interested, and most desirous of attending. The unfortunate scene which occurred at tho hotel early In the evening left me, however, with so severe a head ache that I begged to bo allowed to re main here alone with Celeste. At first both Lord Darlington and mamma re fused to depart without me, but when the presidente dispatched his own steam launch to convey the party to the wharf, they decided It would be most discourteous not to attend. Lord Darlington's membership in the house of lords gives him a certain official recognition abroad which he does not care to have lapse. The yacht's cap tain accompanied them, and no dream of evil befalling those left behind ever occurred to any one of us. O senor, tell me, what does It all mean? What Iisb hatmeaed.?" "f pFesume I must explain," I said, .-igretfully, "although it is not an easy task by any means. You will have confidence in me, Miss Doris?" "I shall endeavor to do so," she re turned, an increasing coldness In her voice. "But I am Lady Darlington." "Your pardon I supposed you to be that gentleman's daughter." The color swept In a wave of rich crimson into her cheeks, the gray eyes becoming darker. "Nevertheless, senor, I am Lord Darlington's wife." Even in that moment ef embar rassment and perplexity, whea I was scarcely less agitated than herself, this unexpected announcement of such a relationship came to me as a shock. Why It should, what difference it oould possibly make, I did not in the least realize, yet I was instantly conscious of the disappointment, of deep regret The revelation, thus calmly, proudly made, was so unexpected, so destruc tive of all my previous conceptions, as to seem an Impossibility. Could this young, clear-eyed woman be Indeed the wife of that grim, inactive, ancient peer of the realm? "You apparently question the truth of my words," she remarked, coldly observant. "It was onlx the natural surprise of a moment, Lady Darlington," I hastened to apologize. "The thought of your marriage had never before oc curred to me." She looked directly Into my eyes, her own plainly indignant, yet her words strove to overcome the blunt ncss of mj* speech. "I do not feel, senor, that there can be any necessity for discussing my private affairs with you at present. Enough that I am Lady Darlington, and that I have patiently answered the rather impudent .luestlons you have seen fit to ask. Now, Senor Estevan, kindly enlighten me as to the cause of your Intrusion into this apartment, and your presence on board the yacht." Her tone had changed to lmperious ness. This was plainly a command, and, back of the fair face 'fronting me, I read strength of character and a proud insistence long'accustomed to control. It was not fear but disdain that darkened her gray eyes. Her manner begged nothing—It pictured dominant command, the attitude of one who addresses a servant, expect ing Implicit obedience. "Lady Darlington," I began, stand ing directly before her, and reverting to the use of English, so as to be certain of making my meaning suffi ciently clear, "whatever explanation I may make cannot be pleasant, but it shall be truthful. It is far better that you comprehend fully the situation we are in—your own peril, as well as my responsibility Her expression changed from ab bitrary defiance to an amazement not untlnged by a sudden development of fear as her hands grasped the chair back convulsively but I went on steadily to the end. "I am not, as you naturally sup posed, a Chilean, but a native of North America. My name is Stephens. I was in Valparaiso under most un pleasant circumstances, seeking vainly to escape from the country, and hounded by the secret police because of my connection lately with a revo lutionary movement along the Bolivian frontier. The merits of that, affair need not now be discussed, but I had become involved in it through certain business connections, and had at tained Valparaiso after much hard ship, seeking escape by sea. There I discovered every avenue, closed against me, and was reduced to a des perate plight. I was in hiding from the governmental authorities when. I risked almost certain discovery—last I evening. A little later—after you left the hotel—a man who I was led to bo lieve represented the Peruvian gov ernment, approached me with a strange proposition, which, however, promised immediate, release from my dangerous predicament, and, likewise, .! a suitable reward for the successful performance of a certain service. I am a aailor, and the particular duty required of me was to be performed niton the sea. I was asked to assume' the position of a Peruvian naval cap tala. Incapacitated by sudden Ulnesa, In the surprise and capture of a ChlV ean yrar vessel, the steam yacht Es meralda, then supposed to b« lying at anchor, poorly guarded, in the outer harbor off the goveinmeht dock*. For that purpose I was presented with a If uly glance wauuerafi irum tionless woman fronting me in such white silence to Celeste, who had sunk back upon the bed, her blue eyes staring at me across the brass rail, ev idently experiencing difficulty In trans lating my rapid English speech. "I had enjoyed but little opportunity of examining the particular vessel we were thus employed to capture, as I dared not leave the hotel except after nightfall." I continued, more slowly. 'Yet I knew her place of anchorage, and that she was a Bteam yacht of some 700 tons burden, schooner-rigged, with lines promising great speed. Oth erwise I relied entirely upon the knowledge of the officers under me. We boarded what I believed to be the Esmeralda soon after midnight, over came the small harbor watch with lit tle difficulty, captured the engine room, and, by holding a gun at his ear, persuaded the engineer to operate his machinery in our service. The very audacity of the attempt brought comparatively easy success. The main cabin had been secured by my orders when we first arrived aboard, and I came below just now, after all danger seemed far astern, to learn if any officers were hidden away here. I had examined all the other staterooms, finding them empty, and at last opened this door in my quest. Not until I saw you did I in the slightest realize that we were on board the wrong vessel, r.or that we 1 en gaged in anything except an honorable adventure of war." That the hasty details of my story both startled her and impressed her with its truth, was evident enough, yet her lips curled with contempt, and her eyes remained unbelieving. "How many men accompanied you?" "A crew of 20, with two officers." "Peruvians, I presume?" "No, madam," reluctantly, "hotch potch dragged from the seven seas." Her expressive face darkened, her fingers clenching again nervously about the chairback. "And you really expect me to be lieve that preposterous tale!" she burst forth, indignation shattering all ordinary bounds of speech. "You must, Indeed,, think very highly of my intelligence. You—why, you are a sea-robber, a pirate!" My cheeks flushed at the harsh words. I could feel the surge of blood, yet I met her gaze quietly. "I have told you the exact truth. Lady Darlington, as I promised," I re turned, seeking to speak calmly, "with out any real hope that you would be lieve. Yet I want you to try. It Is all bad enough as It stands, without endeavoring to make it appear worse." She leaned slightly forward, clearly impressed to some extent by the gravi ty of my manner. "Then prove it" "How?" "By steaming directly back to Val paraiso and delivering up this stolen vessel to its lawful owners." "That sounds simple enough, but do you-realize what our probable fate would he?" She clasped her hands tightly, press ing them against her breast "What do I care!" the contempt in her voice grown bitter. "You have done the evil, by your own confession now you should pay the price. You rescued me once from Insult, and 1 a Robber, "You—Why, You Are ,•/- -PlratelT •r.»"• i, j. hold the remembrance of that act In your favor. Prove yourself worthy a woman's respect by making amends for this wrong. Take the Sea Queen baCk now, before it is forever too late, and all I can do, or that my husband can accomplish, shall be done to save you from punishment. Prove, to me that your words are not false." I hesitated, doubt and suspicion rendering me totally incapable of cleu thinking before her insistent demand. Her face grew whiter as she marked my silence. "So you—you lied, then!" the cruel words faltered from between her lipi almost unconsciously. "No, I spoke the truth,". I answered, gripping myself sternly, "but I ques tion my power." "Tour power? Why, you Just to formed me yon were In command." I advanced a step forward, my man ner respectful enough, yet she hall shrank back from my approach and brought the protection of the ofr»«r b» tween us. "Perhaps I may never succeed lo making you clearly comprehend my present position," I said, soberly, "yet I Intend to try, because. In truth, need your assistance as greatly as you need mine. Twenty minutes ago, Lady Darlington, it was true I be lieved myself to be In absolute com mand of this vessel. Now I gravely suspect whether I may not be a mere puppet helpless in the hands of oth- MJ, hav0 already endeavored to y-\-r 7 explain, it was comparatively easy ror me to mistake this yacht for the Es meralda. They are very much alike, and I had enjoyed no opportunity for closely observing either. But it is im possible for me to conceive how tho others of my party could have inno cently made such an error. What project they may have had in mind I cannot even guess, but I believe now the Sea Queen was deliberately cap tured, and that I have been decoyed into the leadership of an act of piracy. If so, then I am only one man pitted against 20. What I may accomplish I have at present no means of know ing. I must see the others, endeavor to discover their secret purpose, and learn whether or not I possess any real authority on board. Lady Darling ton, do you at least comprehend what I mean? Do I make it clear to you that I am in a position scarcely less perilous than your own?" With lips parted and hands clenched over her heaving breast she stood silent, apparently deeply aroused by my earnest appeal, yet totally unable to repose full confidence In me. Yet her very hesitancy was to me an en couragement "You certainly have every reason to doubt me at present, madam," I urged, with increased confidence, "yet I mean to prove myself worthy your trust by deeds rather than words. Will you consent to do as I wish, at least for the moment?" She did not appear to know what she had better do or say, her glance wandering In uncertainty from my face to the questioning eyes of the maid. The latter leaned forward with some eagerness. "Surely it is best to say oui, mad ame ze man has ze look honorable," her hands gesticulating despair. "An' on ze whol' ship zere was no one else to help us." "As you say, Celeste, there is no choice and Lady Darlington's gray eyes again sought mine reluctantly. "I sincerely desire to repose complete confidence in you to believe you worthy. What is it you wish us to do?" "Merely to remain where you are, beyond the observation of others, until I can ascertain the exact truth of our situation. So soon as I learn this, I shall return with the information. Will you accede to this?" She lowered her head slightly, In silent acquiescence, and, still facing them both, I backed out of the room and closed the door. CHAPTER IX. In Which I Learn Our Port I sank down into the depths of an upholstered divan without, rested my head within my hands, and endeavored earnestly to collect thought and nerve for the coming struggle. The terrible ness of our situation only became more apparent as I considered it in the light of the discoveries already made, and in my understanding of the nature of those with whom I was now associated. Neither Tuttle nor De Nova had ever mistaken, the Sea Queen for the warship Esmeralda. It was impossible to conceive that these two trained seamen could have made such an error, or that the men under them could have been so utterly de ceived. Tuttle's boat came up directly beneath the bows, with the riding lamps burning brightly and revealing the name every man aboard must have seen it plainly. Yet what ob ject could have led to so desperate an act of piracy? What part was I des tined to play In the final working out of their lawless scheme? The longer I studied over the prob lem the more thoroughly did I become mystified and confused. What could these men ever hope to accomplish in this lawless fashion? They must be fools or madmen. This was not the age of piracy every league of sea was patrolled every port protected by telegraphic communication. Where could they sail? Where could they ex pect to land? Where on all the round globe could they hope to go to escape the vengeance of British power on the high seas? What object could pos sibly inspire them to so reckless an act? Difficult as my own situation un doubtedly was, apparently helpless among this crew of sea devils, with out a man on board in whom I could put trust, it was rendered a thousand times harder by the presence of those two women. In what way could I pro tecjt and serve them? I wondered II 4 all the crew forward were in the plot, or were the leaders alone Involved? Could I count on finding a single hon est sailor in all that riffraff who would stand by me in revolt?- There were others on board—-the three seamen and. the engineer of the yacht's crew, the Chileajfi officer captured on shore —but they were prisoners, far more helpless even than myself. The longer I thought the darker grew the pros pect the closer the cords of Fate pressed about me. There was noth ing to do except to face the conspira tors boldly, and thus ascertain tho whole truth. I glanced upward at the telltale compass overhead—the ves sel's course had already been altered we were now headed westward, direct ly out into the broad Pacific. I met Tuttle at the end of tho bridge, clinging to the handrail his oilskins flapping in the head wind. Ho never glanced toward me, the cool, studied insolence of the fellow causing me to feel more deeply than ever be fore his consciousness of power. "The yacht is several points off her course Mr. Tuttle." I said, sharply, determined to test him. "May I If the change was mads ny (lo Bo Continued.|4^ The AMERICAN reaches the very people that yon want to have read you* ad,,^ !%.